Today, David Brooks published an intriguing opinion editorial about the difference between Blue and Red State inequality. Brooks’ definitions of Blue and Red State inequality are necessarily fuzzy. You might be able to evaluate the issue from a quantitative standpoint, for instance; however, that is not the approach Brooks chooses.
Instead, he evokes more of a feeling about what these two distinct types of inequality entail. From someone who has experienced both of these environments, I was extremely impressed by Mr. Brooks’ penetrating insight.
He begins his post with the following contention:
“We live in a polarizing society, so perhaps it’s inevitable that our experience of inequality should be polarized, too.”
He then introduces the two concepts of Blue and Red State inequality. According to Brooks, Blue State inequality is:
“…the kind experienced in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Houston and the District of Columbia. In these places, you see the top 1 percent of earners zooming upward, amassing more income and wealth. The economists Jon Bakija, Adam Cole and Bradley Heim have done the most authoritative research on who these top 1 percenters are.”
In contrast, Red State inequality is:
“This is the kind experienced in Scranton, Des Moines, Naperville, Macon, Fresno, and almost everywhere else. In these places, the crucial inequality is not between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent. It’s between those with a college degree and those without. Over the past several decades, the economic benefits of education have steadily risen. In 1979, the average college graduate made 38 percent more than the average high school graduate, according to the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke. Now the average college graduate makes more than 75 percent more.”
Brooks then makes a compelling case for why the media focuses on what he (and I) see as the lesser problem — disproportionate wealth concentration among the top 1%. He argues, and I agree, that the press should be focusing on the greater concern — Red State inequality.
He concludes his piece with the following argument:
“But the fact is that Red Inequality is much more important. The zooming wealth of the top 1 percent is a problem, but it’s not nearly as big a problem as the tens of millions of Americans who have dropped out of high school or college. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the 40 percent of children who are born out-of-wedlock. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the nation’s stagnant human capital, its stagnant social mobility and the disorganized social fabric for the bottom 50 percent.”
Here, here, Mr. Brooks. Here, here.